In those counties, women's life expectancy fell by an average of 1.3 years between 1983 and 1999, according to a team of researchers at Harvard University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Washington. Meanwhile, men's life expectancy fell by 1.3 years in only 11 counties nationwide.
"Researchers blamed the decrease in women's life expectancy on high blood pressure as well as chronic diseases related to smoking and obesity, such as lung cancer and diabetes," AP reports. (In the researchers' maps below, the red counties experienced significant declines, while orange ones had less significant declines, of 0.5 years or less, and those in green had increases, more significant in dark green counties.)
The study, based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, found that nationwide between 1961 and 1999 the life expectancy for men increased from 66.9 years to 74.1 years, while women's life expectancy rose from from 73.5 years to 79.6 years. In the 180 counties that saw declines in women's life expectancy, the average was 75.5 years. "The study emphasizes how important it is to monitor health inequalities between different groups," the researchers wrote, "in order to ensure that everyone - and not just the well-off - can experience gains in life expectancy." (Read more)
The study was published this week in the online journal PLoS Medicine. To read the full study go here.
UPDATE, April 29: The Daily Yonder posts better maps and lists of the counties with significantly lower life expectancy and reports that the rural county with the greatest decline in life expectancy, for both men and women, was McNairy County, Tenn. To read the details, click here.